I always thought that the imputation of our sins on Jesus so that we are free from sin is what justified us. But according to several passages in the Bible (What is the biblical basis for the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers?) there is also an imputation of God's righteousness onto us.

It seems strange to me that the imputation of our sins on Christ isn't enough to make us righteous before God, but that we would still need an imputation of God's righteousness on us despite our sins having been washed away. Are these actually two separate acts or are they identical?

  • According to which denomination(s)? Not all believe in the same process/kind of justification as is presented in the question. Please narrow your question. Thank you! Nov 3, 2017 at 22:36
  • The idea of the application of Christ's righteous to the sinner is rather universal in Christianity. The disputes tend to be how it is applied -- infused vs imputed vs imparted vs ....
    – bradimus
    Nov 3, 2017 at 23:07
  • Strictly speaking, to impute my sins to Christ means to declare Christ guilty of my sins, but that doesn't necessarily declare me innocent of them --- Christ and I could both be considered guilty. Nov 3, 2017 at 23:23
  • The expression 'righteousness of God' is several times seen in scripture, but 'righteousness of Christ' never occurs, even once.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 3, 2017 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


The words ‘righteousness of Christ’ never occur in scripture. What does occur is ‘the righteousness of God’ And that is the answer to your question - why if sins were borne by Christ , do we still need an ‘imputation’ ? That is a very intelligent question; very valid.

The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, Romans 1:17. It is revealed at Golgotha. It is revealed when God drew near and resolved all righteousness in the sufferings and death and bloodshed of Jesus Christ, his own beloved Son.

Jesus Christ bore the sins of others, in his body, on the tree, I Peter 2:24. And Jesus Christ was made sin - sin, as such, the thing itself was contained within him, unto death, II Corinthians 5:21. When he died, it was taken away. Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, John 1:29.

When one believes this gospel, sees and believes that God’s own righteousness was met and satisfied in Jesus Christ himself as he suffered and died - then God sees that faith and sees, within that faith, his own righteousness.

The righteousness of God is seen within the faith of the believer. And God, seeing that faith, seeing his own righteousness reflected in that faith - God accounts that person to be right. For he is right. He is right to believe that he is a sinner. And he is right to believe in Jesus Christ. And he is right to see that God’s rightness was fully met and satisfied within Christ.

This is a massively important subject. This is the heart of the gospel. The gospel reveals this. Nothing else does.

And I am not ashamed of this gospel; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed - out of faith - unto faith. Romans 1:16.

  • I've been a Christian for 22 years and up till now, always thought the Bible spoke of "the righteousness of Christ." I've learned something new and I want to thank you for this explanation.
    – Lesley
    May 28, 2018 at 16:45
  • Glad to be of service.
    – Nigel J
    May 28, 2018 at 18:01

Perhaps this illustration can assist you:

Consider a kingdom whose social strata consist of: the king; the royal family (involved in administering the affairs of the kingdom); ordinary subjects; criminals.

While ordinary subjects can be granted an audience with the king, there is a strict rule that no criminals will be admitted to such an audience. Royal family members have familial access to the king and thus requesting an audience is unnecessary for them.

Imagine a criminal is (correctly) convicted of a crime, but after the sentence is pronounced, the crown prince intervenes and bears the penalty instead. As the penalty has been discharged, the criminal is restored to the status of an ordinary subject and can once again petition for audience with the king in case of need, but would not thereby have granted to them the level of access to the king that a royal family member enjoys.

Now imagine that the crown prince elects not just to bear the penalty of the criminal, but additionally bestows his royal clothes and signet ring ensuring that the criminal is not just restored to the status of an ordinary subject, but is elevated to the status of a royal family member.

The latter scenario is in view with the assertion that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer. Imputation of our sin to Christ ensures escape from judgment. Imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer ensures familial access to fellowship with God and the family of God.

  • This is based on personal opinion - there is no scripture which expresses anything like this.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 3, 2017 at 23:48
  • @NigelJ No it's not a personal opinion, it's based on the doctrine that the OP is enquiring about - the divine exchange Nov 4, 2017 at 0:29
  • Then why are those words 'divine exchange' not in my bible ?
    – Nigel J
    Nov 4, 2017 at 0:34
  • @NigelJ Do you believe in the Trinity? If so, then you are quibbling as the word trinity is not in the Bible. If not, then we are unlikely to agree about what is actually in the Bible. Nov 4, 2017 at 0:37
  • Do you understand why that word you mentioned is not in the bible ? It is because that is not the way we are being taught. We are being taught so carefully, so precisely, so exactly - in order that we might believe aright. Else, we will go wrong.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 4, 2017 at 0:41

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